Viral Hepatitis

Hepatitis is defined as inflammation of the liver. This condition can be self-limiting or can progress to fibrosis (scarring), cirrhosis or even liver cancer depending on the cause. 

Other Causes of Hepatitis

Although Virus infection is the MOST common cause, other causes of Hepatitis include;

  • Toxic substances (such as excess alcohol intake, chemicals or paraquat weedkiller)
  • Medications (such as paracetamol or strong painkillers)
  • Recreational drugs (such as ecstasy or heroin)
  • Congenital metabolic disease such as haemochromatosis (excessive iron deposits in the liver) and Wilson’s disease (excessive copper deposits in the liver)

Click to watch MayoClinic video on ABC of Hepatitis

Types of Hepatitis Viruses

There are 5 main hepatitis viruses, namely types A, B, C, D and E with an estimated 500 million people in the world infected with hepatitis B or C. 

How does the virus spread?

Hepatitis A & E are caused by ingestion of contaminated food or water.  Other the other hand, Hepatitis B, C & D is caused by contact with infected body fluids such as contaminated blood or blood products (through blood transfusion with infected blood), sexual contact and in the case of hepatitis B, transmission from infected mother to baby at birth can also occur.

Image DW

What are the 5 types of Hepatitis viruses?

1. Hepatitis A.  Hepatitis A (HAV) is transmitted through food and water contaminated with faeces from an infected person. It mostly causes acute infection but fortunately resolves without long term consequence nor cause chronic liver disease. Hepatitis A is the most prevalent worldwide.

2. Hepatitis B. Hepatitis B (HBV) can be transmitted through cuts and wounds and other contact with bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, and semen via unprotected sex with an infected person. The virus can also be transmitted from infected mother to baby.  Some will become chronic carriers of the virus and worldwide, there are over 325 million people with chronic hepatitis B infection which can cause liver complications.

3. Hepatitis C. . Hepatitis C (HCV) is transmitted through cuts and wounds and other contact with bodily fluids such as blood, saliva, and semen (similar to HBV). Sharing of needles or blood transfusion contaminated with the virus will also lead to infection.  There is a 70% risk of it turning into chronic carriers of the virus and it is estimated that around 70 million people have chronic Hepatitis C infection in the world which can cause liver complications.

4. Hepatitis D.  Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is generally transmitted through cuts and wounds and other contact with infected blood (similar to HBV) but is very rare. .

5. Hepatitis E.  Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is generally contracted by ingesting contaminated faecal matter (similar to HAV) and causes acute hepatitis.  Fortunately the disease resolves without chronic consequence.

Signs & Symptoms during viral Hepatitis

  • Flu-like illness with fever
  • Fatigue and loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain over the liver area
  • Itchy skin
  • Jaundice
  • Dark urine

Complications (usually with Hepatitis B & C)

  • Liver inflammation leading to scarring & cirrhosis (and eventually liver failure) is left untreated
  • Increased risk of getting liver cancer


Blood tests

  • Liver Function Blood Test to determine how efficiently the liver is functioning by looking at the levels of bilirubin, protein and liver enzymes
  • Hepatitis Blood Test can determine the presence of hepatitis virus antigens & antibodies and most importantly, which type of hepatitis virus is in the body. 
  • Additional tests include reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) to detect the hepatitis A virus RNA

Abdominal Ultrasound

The ultrasound scan is used to measure the liver size and to view the texture of the liver.  A liver biopsy may be done at the same time if liver cancer is suspected

MRI Scan

MRI scan is used to view and measure any liver lesions, extent of liver damage or cirrhosis (liver scarring)

Image DW

See your doctor to get tested for Hepatitis and get protection by getting your Hepatitis vaccination

Find and Book your nearest health professional below for Free!

No Listing Found!

Disclaimer. TELEME blog posts contains general information about health conditions and treatments. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. 

If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor or other professional healthcare providers. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment because of information on this website.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Share it on social media!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?